'Glee': Gwyneth Paltrow Brings Sexy Back

Our panel weighs in on this week's episode, which features the Oscar-winner as a high school sex ed teacher



Gwyneth Paltrow returned to Glee last night to talk about sex (baby). Back as substitute teacher Holly Holiday—this time filling-in as a sex-ed instructor—Paltrow partnered up with Matthew Morrison's Mr. Schuester to teach the students of McKinley High the facts of life. With fellow Schuester love interest Emma heading up the school's celibacy club, tension—sexual or otherwise—was abound everywhere this week.

To help make sense of the episode, we have a panel of musical theater and pop culture buffs—Meghan Brown, Patrick Burns, and Kevin Fallon—to provide their takes on how realistic the show feels, how well the romances develop, and of course, how good the musical numbers are.

Here's what they had to say:

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Kevin Fallon (writer and producer for The Atlantic's Culture channel): Gwyneth Paltrow brought sexy back to Glee this week, and was, if possible, even sassier and sultrier than the last time she appeared on the show. To mark the occasion, Matthew Morrison even took a week off from his crooning the joys of bumping and grinding in the rain (hear that here) to join Paltrow's Holly Holiday in preaching the virtues of abstinence and safe sex. And, boy, could the kids use some sex education.

We learn that Finn's belief last season that he fathered Quinn's baby without ever actually doing the bedroom duet was just the tip of the iceberg of his ignorance about sex. Mercedes gets confused during a condom demonstration and believes cucumbers give you AIDS. Brittany thinks a nesting stork is about to bring her a baby. Kurt mistakes making cat claws while doing the pony for sexy dancing. Even the adults are painfully oblivious: Emma thinks "Afternoon Delight" is a celebration of America and fireworks, and nooners are desserts at lunchtime.

And I hope you held on to your bobby socks, because the journey from the opening scene with the Pastel-Colored Cardigan Celibacy Club to Will and Holly's soft-lit makeout finale was a whirlwind. Five musical numbers were performed. One character came out of the closet. An affair was revealed. A marriage separated. One of the most uncomfortable father-son sex talks ever committed to television (and thus, really, one of the most realistic) took place. Luckily Paltrow was there to anchor it all, believably channeling Joan Jett, Stevie Nicks, and Prince—all while playing fast and loose with some seriously funny dialogue. It's two consecutive episodes of mixed messages for Glee; just one week after making underage drinking look cool, the show admits that teenage celibacy is "naive and a little frigid" (Gwyn's words), while sex is actually fun. Though the issues were handled with an appropriate amount of levity—and the lessons were there—the truth is that the show didn't play the nuances of the argument as delicately as it probably thought it did. Which makes one wonder why it even tries (see: religion debacle). The show is best when it eats at the buffet of impropriety, and then goes back for seconds—something we finally started getting a taste of again last night.

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